Many of the parents I support with advocacy have very large families. As the children are taken one by one or sometimes all at once in to foster care or for adoption, it is difficult to understand why it is that families let further pregnancies happen over and over again. I have worked with people who have had as many as ten children and have not been allowed to keep any of them. The suffering and grief that families experience when their children are removed from them is very painful to witness, not just for the families, all of the people working around the family feel the upset and the loss. Mums and dads usually understand how their decisions can impact on so many people, the ripples go on and on.
So why oh why do mums from troubled families keep on getting pregnant?
I was at a conference some years ago and spoke to a woman who like me, works with parents who have a learning disability. She was at that time supporting a mother who was expecting her fourteenth child. This tragic mum whose poor body must have been weary to say the least, told the worker that she would, “just keep on having babies, until social services let me keep one.”
One of the mothers I used to work with, moved away from Solihull to live in another area. She`d had six children removed into foster care when I last saw her in 2010. She`d delivered a seventh baby that year which she had been allowed to keep and when I bumped into her in 2012, she`d had another two. Miraculously they were all three still living with her but it was hard for me to understand her reasons for having so many more children so quickly and increasing the risk that they too, would go into foster care.
My brother Al` was a team manager in children`s services in Birmingham for around twenty years until his retirement. I was talking to him recently about this subject and he said that he thought women got pregnant so many times because often it was the only thing they could do that they were good at, especially women who have a learning disability. For a whole nine months while they are pregnant no-one can touch them. The baby is safely inside them, warm and nurtured and they are able to relax in the knowledge that until the child is born, no-one can do anything about it. The mum feels in a sense that she is in control, sometimes for the first time in her life. I don`t know if my brother is right but if he is, it must be a pretty powerful feeling for those mums who mostly feel invisible, marginalised, put down and disrespected.
Parents often say to me, “we just want a chance to show that we can do it and be good parents, just one chance.”
I wish that there was more support in place for families who need that help. I wish that judges would be more compassionate in their summing up in court and offer more parents that one chance. I wish I had a shed load of money and could open up a home where entire families could come and live with the support already in place – now wouldn`t that be wonderful!